Trovan: Pfizer Hopeful US Supreme Court Will Hear Appeal


Though disappointed by the recent brief filed by the office of the Solicitor General of the United States of America asking that country’s Supreme Court not to hear its appeal in the cases instituted over the 1996 trial of meningitis drug, Trovan in American courts , global pharmaceutical giant, Pfizer said it is still hopeful  that the  apex court will hear its appeal.

In November 2009, the U.S. Supreme Court had asked the Solicitor General’s Office for its views on the matter of Abdullahi v.Pfizer Inc. and Adamu v. Pfizer Inc, cases filed in the United States against Pfizer over the  trial of experimental  drug, Trovan in Kano during a virulent outbreak of meningitis in the ancient city.

But Pfizer had argued that a private company cannot be sued in the United States especially under the jurisdiction of the Alien Tort Statute on which the cases were filed  and argued that the case should be dismissed.

While a trial court in New York upheld Pfizer’s argument and dismissed the case, the decision was reversed at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Pfizer then appealed to the United States Supreme Court for a review of the decision.

In November, 2009, the Supreme Court asked the Solicitor General’s Office for its views on the matter and whether it should hear the appeal instituted against the lower court ruling by Pfizer.

Specifically Supreme Court asked the Solicitor General to express the views of the United States on whether jurisdiction under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS) can extend to a private actor based on alleged state action by a foreign government where there is no allegation that the government knew of or participated in the specific acts by the private actor claimed to have violated international law.

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But in the brief filed before the court recently the Solicitor General of the United States said the Supreme Court should not hear Pfizer’s appeal. In the statement filed by the Solicitor General, it said among others that the Alien Tort Statute (ATS) provides that federal “district courts shall have original jurisdiction of any civil action by an alien for a tort only, committed in violation of the law of nations or a treaty of the United States.”

Despite this setback, Pfizer said it is still hopeful of getting judgment from the United States’ Supreme Court.

“Although we are disappointed that the Solicitor General’s Office has recommended denial of our petition on procedural grounds, we remain hopeful that the Supreme Court will agree to hear this appeal,” the American drug manufacturing company said in the statement.

“Pfizer continues to believe that the Court of Appeals’ decision represents an unprecedented expansion of international law by allowing non-U.S. citizens to bring a wide range of lawsuits in U.S. courts that have not been recognised before.”

The company said its 1996 Trovan clinical study, which it had all along insisted was conducted with the approval of the Nigerian government, the consent of the participants’ parents or guardians, was consistent with Nigerian laws.

—Oluokun Ayorinde/ Abuja

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